What Jeffrey Toobin Said About Zoom Scandal on CNN Return

Jeffrey Toobin has spoken about the scandal that led to his firing from The New Yorker during his first appearance on CNN after an eight-month absence.

Toobin was fired by the magazine after he exposed himself while on a Zoom call with his colleagues.

In a statement after the incident last October, Toobin said he had made an embarrassingly stupid mistake" when he believed he was off-camera.

Toobin has now returned to his role as a CNN legal analyst, but a number of high-profile conservative figures have criticized the network for allowing him back on air.

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota addressed the controversy with Toobin on Thursday. Their conversation has been transcribed by Newsweek.

Full transcript

Camerota: "I feel like we should address what's happened in the months since we've seen you, since some of our viewers may not know what has happened. So I guess I'll recap, I'll do the honors.

"In October, you were on a Zoom call with your colleagues from The New Yorker magazine. Everyone took a break for several minutes, during which time you were caught masturbating on camera. You were subsequently fired from that job after 27 years of working there. And you since then have been on leave from CNN.

"Do I have all that right?"

Toobin: "You got it all right. Sad to say."

Camerota: "OK, so let's start there. To quote Jay Leno, 'What the hell were you thinking?'"

Toobin: "Well, obviously, I wasn't thinking very well or very much. And it was something that was inexplicable to me.

"I think one point, I wouldn't exactly say in my defense, because nothing is really in my defense, I didn't think I was on the call. I didn't think other people could see me."

Camerota: "So you thought that you had turned off your camera?"

Toobin: "Correct, I thought that I had turned off the Zoom call. Now, that's not a defense. This was deeply moronic and indefensible. But I mean, that is part of this story.

"I have spent these seven subsequent months, miserable months in my life I can certainly confess, trying to be a better person. I'm in therapy, trying to do some public service, working in a food bank, which I certainly am going to continue to do, working on a new book about the Oklahoma City bombing, but I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again."

Camerota: "I'm sure you've replayed that embarrassing moment over and over many times. Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of that Zoom call?"

Toobin: "Well, I haven't just thought about it. I spoken to several of my former colleagues at The New Yorker about it. And they were shocked and appalled.

"I think they realize that this was not intended for them, that this was something that I would immediately regret, as I certainly did. And it was that day that I began apologizing. And that is something that I have tried to continue to do, both publicly and privately.

"We've covered a lot of political scandals. We've heard what I like to think of as the 'politician apology'—which is 'I'm sorry, if you were offended,' which always sounds to me like 'I've said the words now get off my back.'

"That's exactly what I've tried not to do. I'm trying now to say how sorry I am.

"Above all, I am sorry to my wife and to my family. But I'm also sorry to the people on the Zoom call, I'm sorry to my former colleagues at The New Yorker, I'm sorry to my current, fortunately still, colleagues at CNN, and I'm sorry to the people who read my work and watch me on CNN and who thought I was a better person. I got a lot to rebuild, but I feel very privileged and very lucky that I'm going to be able to try to do that."

Camerota: "One of the ironies of this whole incident is that for decades you have covered the bad judgment and sexual proclivities of public figures and politicians like Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer and Donald Trump and I could go on. It begs the question: why didn't you have better judgment?"

Toobin: "Because I didn't have better judgment, because I [am a] flawed human being who makes mistakes. There is no defense for my conduct. The only issue is what should be the consequences. And The New Yorker made one decision about the consequences. CNN made a different decision—fortunately, for which I'm very grateful. But I am not here to split hairs and try to come up with justifications or explanations. It was wrong, it was stupid and I'm trying to be a better person."

Camerota: "I do want to get to what the decision was and the consequences. So after you've worked there for 27 years, you were fired. They said after an internal investigation, and in an internal memo: 'I am writing to share with you that our investigation regarding Jeffrey Toobin is complete and, as a result, he is no longer affiliated with our company.' Do you know what else they found?"

Toobin: "I do, actually. I was told very specifically by the people involved, that they looked at my entire career at The New Yorker, 27 years, and found that there had been no complaints about me, no issues. This was not the straw that broke the camel's back, it was just this incident.

"And I was certainly relieved. I'm not surprised that that's what they found. Yet nevertheless, they made the decision to get rid of me, which, needless to say, was heartbreaking."

Camerota: "So, you're saying there will be no surprises after this that will come out?"

Toobin: "There are no surprises out there about my conduct that I'm worried about, that there's a skeleton that's going to be found.

"I live in the world, I know social media, what the reactions are likely to be. I assume—I hope—they will be at least mixed. But people can claim what they want. But I don't think there is anything further that's going to come."

Camerota: "Do you think, given that, that the punishment fits the crime?"

Toobin: "I am the worst person to ask that question. Obviously, I love The New Yorker. I loved working there, I felt like I was a very good contributor for a very long time. And I thought this punishment is excessive. But that's why they don't ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case.

"I thought it was an excessive punishment. I am incredibly grateful to CNN for taking me back. But other people are going to weigh in about whether it was appropriate for them to get rid of me and for CNN to keep me."

Camerota: "Other people have weighed in yesterday, late night talk shows, they've had a field day."

Toobin: "How about two segments on Saturday Night Live about me? … I actually did not watch it. I read transcripts. And I guess I saw a little YouTube.

"One thing about all this is I've never thought of myself, even when I was a prosecutor, as someone who was a particular hardass, who was someone who was wanting to punish everyone to the maximum extent of the law.

"And as a journalist, I have been aware not every crime deserves the death penalty. So, I don't think there's a lot of hypocrisy involved in a claim for leniency on my part. But it is true that people had fun with this, and I am enough person in the world to know people we're gonna have fun with."

Camerota: "Even OJ Simpson took a swipe at you. It can be unpleasant to be the butt of jokes, obviously. And so I'm wondering if you think that that will somehow color your legal analysis in the future."

Toobin: "I really don't think so. My dad used to say something, he used to say you can judge a person by their enemies. And if my enemy is OJ Simpson, that is OK with me."

Jeffery Toobin cnn
Jeffrey Toobin attends a book signing during the Palm Beach Book Festival in Florida on April 21, 2017. He has returned to CNN after an absence of eight months. Mychal Watts/Getty Images